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professional services marketing

What are the attributes of a good name for a firm?

Posted by Brad Entwistle on Tue, Feb 09, 2016

What are the attributes of a good name for a firm?What's in a name? A whole lot actually.

As a professional services firm owner, you should be aware that names have the power to make or break a firm. Here are the 10 attributes of a good name ...

  1. Short, sweet and easily pronounced
    The ideal name for clients to remember — and for you to use to cut through the industry noise — is short and sweet and easily pronounced. This means it will have two or three syllables (or even one) and it will work on the phone or internet even if people have never seen or heard it before. If people have to be told how to spell it once, that’s okay (and may even help with recall), but if they have to be told a second time, that’s a problem. Research tells us that using one of the ‘sticky’ consonants (k, q, x, z) can help with recall.

  2. Unique within its industry
    Your name doesn't need to be weird or clunky, but it also shouldn’t sound like all the rest of your direct competitors. HotJobs.com, BAJobs.com, Careers.com, CareerJunction.com, LocalJobs.com are all easily lost in the crowd. But Monster.com stands out dramatically — even though it does not describe what they do! In practice, it has become brand shorthand for job searches, just like Starbucks has become shorthand for coffee.

  3. Legally available and defensible
    The ability to protect your new name from misuse, misrepresentation and mistaken identity is paramount. Your internet domain name is almost as important as your visual identity.

  4. Good alliteration, especially for longer names
    Sometimes a longer name does have a place in marketing. After all, the most famous brand in the world, Coca-Cola, is four syllables. But notice how smoothly it rolls off the tongue. Linguists will tell you it has good alliteration.

  5. Does not lend itself to abbreviations
    If you have a long descriptive name, people will abbreviate it quickly. Okay, we know it worked for IBM, KFC, ABC, ASIC and more, but how many years and how many branding dollars do you have? For a small company, this means you quickly become YASI (Yet Another Set of Initials) and drown in the initial bit bucket. At least make sure the trademark part (brand part) of your tradename is a name and not initials. E.g. Ford is the trademark for Ford Motor Car Company. Leave FMCC etc. to the legal documents only.

  6. Flexible and expandable
    Too many people try to describe their company rather than name it. Copyland, Copydata, Copyshop, QuickCopy all define what they do — and are barely distinguishable from one another. But Kinkos stands out dramatically and did not pigeonhole them into only copy services. Today, of course, they are Fedex Kinkos, and can offer a raft of services without needing to update their name, unlike Texas Instruments that doesn't even make instruments.

  7. Linguistically clean
    What are the root origins of the name? How is it pronounced by a Japanese, Chinese or French native speaker? What does it mean in these languages? You need to support the languages of your major markets.

  8. Will not age quickly
    Is your name hip and topical? If you are in the fashion trend business this might be fine but otherwise, be very careful of ‘in’ words or expressions. They will be superseded sooner or later. They may also not play well across all demographics. Many markets have their own ‘industry-speak’ and slang. Names with classical roots tend to endure more easily.

  9. Embraces company personality
    Two competitors, entering the same market at the same time with directly competing products, will pick different names because every company and management team has its own personality. This means the executives must be involved in the decision making process. Your agency can tell you if the name fits, not if you are comfortable with it.

  10. Fits within company's brand portfolio
    The company name, division names and product names are all part of your brand portfolio. Do these sound like they all come from the same family? While this is a specific problem with merged companies, everyone's naming architecture needs to be properly managed to maximise your brand power and intellectual property portfolio.

Here are some resources you may find useful:

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This blog was written by Brad Entwistle

Brad Entwistle is founder and Managing Director of imageseven. For more than 25 years he has led the imageseven team on a crusade to lift schools’ brands and reveal the true value they deliver to students and their families. When he is not working with schools on their marketing strategy, Brad sits on the boards of two national not-for-profits and enjoys looking at antique maps.


Topics: imageseven, Branding, Communication, Positioning, Marcom, Rebranding, Professional services marketing